Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Tim Sheehy is the CEO and pilot with Bridger Aerospace in Bozeman. Sheehy recently spoke with KGVO News advocating for House Bill 883, proposed by Republican State Representative Llew Jones of Conrad that would, among other things, establish an aggressive Montana Initial Attack and Aerial Response task force, ready to respond to Montana wildfires at a moment’s notice.

Bill calls for Initial Attack and Aerial Response Task Force

“Representative Jones has recognized a growing trend across many Western states which is wildfires are growing in size and severity,” began Sheehy. “Most notably, in the wildland-urban interface, which is where essentially people in habitation are meeting wildfires growing exponentially. Nowhere can we see that probably more obviously than across Montana, especially our high growth, semi-urban areas where thousands of homes are being built in areas that used to be sagebrush, cheatgrass, and fir trees, but are now subdivisions.”

Jones’ bill would invest $186 million to reduce wildfires over the next biennium. It also tasks the DNRC (Department of Natural Resources and Conservation) with investing up to $30 million in preventing fires by converting excess fuel loads to useful products in high-risk areas. For his part, Sheehy said Jones’ bill would have that aerial response team ready to fight fires quickly and efficiently.

The Plan is to Have Aircraft Ready to Respond to Wildfires at a Moment's Notice

“Representative Jones is working to ensure that our state has an Aerial Response Task Force ready and dedicated to launching at any time to protect Montana,” he said. “Typically wildfires have a federally resourced air response, which has worked in past decades when there were fewer and smaller fires. But as they're growing bigger and as we have more people living in fire-prone areas, we have to respond to those fires quicker and more aggressively.”

Sheehy said the initial response to fires typically falls to various federal and state agencies.

“The responsibility for wildfire mitigation varies greatly depending on where the fire is, whether it’s on private land, state land, county land, or federal land. Federal lands have a whole alphabet soup of agencies from the U.S. Forest Service to the Department of Interior, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the list goes on, and how that fire is responded to is dictated usually by the agency that has control over this particular the land on which the fire is found.”

Sheehy said HB 883 would help set up a Rapid Response team to fight Montana wildfires quickly and efficiently.

Sheehy is a Decorated Veteran and Experienced Pilot

“If we want to ensure that we can protect our communities, our farmland or ranch land, time is of the essence, and we have to get there fast,” he said. “So having aircraft sitting in our state ready to go, so that once the fire is reported they can be over that fire in 20 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, or three hours and put thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of gallons of water and retardant on or around that fire, and that gives us a chance to get hold of it and ensure that we're not going to lose a lot of Montana as we did a couple of years ago.”

Read about Representative Jones’ proposed bill by clicking the attachment below.

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